Monday, July 24, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of July 25, 2023

It's all paperback picks this week from the Boswellians. Great for totin', foldin', and summertime readin'.

First on the list is A Death in Door County by Wisconsin author Annelise Ryan, which has recommendations from both Daniel and Tim. Daniel says: "In this adventure cozy, Morgan Carter owns Odds and Ends Bookstore in Sister Bay, where the mystery section is next to a Ouija Board and a fine collection of skulls. Having taken the mantle of bookseller from her deceased parents, she’s also inherited their love of cryptozoology. When two seemingly unrelated bodies are discovered with unexplained bite marks, the talk turns to a possible Nessie-esque monster in Lake Michigan, and Carter’s hired to investigate. And what is an adventure cozy, you ask? Imagine Indiana Jones crossed with Miss Marple - a mystery at the center, perhaps a little more gore than in a standard cozy, the requisite humor, and a touch of romance in the background. Lots of Door County details too!"

And from Tim: "There’s nothing quite like an adventurous, cozy murder mystery set in a place where I’ve personally loved doing summer vacations. Of course, it helps that I didn’t die there, or I wouldn’t feel quite so much love for the place, right? But I didn’t, and this mystery involves a very quirky bookstore, a lovable dog… and a monster search. Morgan Carter, owner of a mystery bookstore that sells mysterious objects far beyond books, is a cryptozoologist whose cryptid fascination essentially began at birth. She was born on a boat in the middle of Loch Ness during her parents’ search for Nessie. She also has multiple college degrees and considers herself a professional skeptic who requires actual proof of monsters. The combination makes her perfect for helping Washington Island’s police chief, as he investigates the drowning of two men with large and unusual bite marks on their bodies. I’m not sure how 'cozy' and 'murder' ended up in the same universe, but they often seem to get along nicely, and I enjoyed their partnership here. The characters are endearing, and the boating to remote places that I’ve never seen had me using Google Earth to check out the landscapes. This was a nice literary summer vacation."

There are two events in the coming months featuring Ryan, too! First, on Wednesday, August 23, 6:30 pm, Annelise Ryan appears at at Whitefish Bay Public Library, 5420 N Marlborough Dr for a conversation with author and former Boswellian Sharon Nagel, one half of Juneau Black. Click here for more info and registration.

Later this year, on Thursday, December 14, 6:30 pm, Ryan appears at Boswell for Death in the Dark Woods, the sequel to A Death in Door County. She'll chat with Patricia Skalka. Click here to register and get more info about this event.

Is that the only Wisconsin author with a book getting a paperback release this week that we recommend? Nope! Daniel also recommends Lost in Summerland, the essay collection by Barrett Swanson. Daniel says: "If you start a copy of Lost in Summerland and find yourself in a nondescript Fort Lauderdale apartment complex, keep reading, as that story was featured in Best American Travel Writing. And if you want something a little more adventurous, don’t worry, as Swanson will take you to Jacques Fresco’s crumbling Venus utopia, the new age mecca of Lily Dale, the Disaster City training compound, a men’s retreat, a farm for anti-war veterans, and a convention of West Wing fans. Several essays focus on Swanson’s older brother, who was punched into a coma and later developed what appeared to be psychic powers. And whether they are farther afield or centered in Wisconsin (the author grew up in Brookfield and played football at Waukesha’s Catholic Memorial High, the jump-off point for another essay), most offer more than one philosophical detour. I had just been telling a colleague that I so enjoyed writing about new-to-me subcultures; I was almost surprised when the next book I picked up was exactly what I wanted. It was almost like Barrett’s brother was willing me to read this great collection. Thanks, bruh!"

Click the wee video icon below to check out our great event with Swanson, in which he is interviewed about this very book by none other than Madison author Steven Wright, author of The Coyotes of Carthage, another of our faves!

Next up is Kathy with her recommendation of Briefly, A Delicious Life, a novel by British author Nell Stevens. Kathy says: "A terrifically engaging and beautifully written story. Imagine combining historical fiction with a love story with a ghost story, and you have this marvelous book. Blanca, whose life becomes intertwined with George Sand, her two children, and Chopin, has been dead for centuries, her spirit haunting the monastery rented by Sand on Mallorca. Blanca's observations of Sand and her family along with the abilities she's developed to enter into the lives of people and to communicate with them are sometimes witty, sometimes humorous, and often full of pathos."

Another novel, another British author. Daniel recommends The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn. Daniel says: "I love books where the experiences that shaped the characters as children help define their lives as adults. Christabel, Florence, and Digby grow up with absent or negligent parents on a country estate on the southern coast of England that has seen better days. When a dead whale washes onshore, Christa’s dream of mammalian conquest is fulfilled when it turns out that neither the king nor anyone else wants it. How it becomes the bones of a theater is something that’s too complicated to describe here. Let us just say that when war rears its ugly head and special forces comes calling, the Seagraves are already prepared to give the performances of their lives. Already a bestseller in the UK, The Whalebone Theatre offers enough twists on the classics of the genre to stand beside the classics."

We hosted a fantastic virtual event featuring Quinn for this novel when it first arrived in hardcover last year - the October edition of our Readings from Oconomowaukee event series that we cohost with our pals of Books & Company in Oconomowoc. Click the video icon below this paragraph to watch that great conversation.

And those are the recs of the week! We'll be back next week with more books, as is our way. Until then, read on.

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